Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation this evening and has advised that from May 1 our Lockdown will be moving into a slightly less intense phase.  This is a great relief and will mean a slight relaxation of some of the restrictions.  However, public gatherings will still be restricted so that means that dog training classes are still on hold.  However, Animal Behaviour Consultants of South Africa are preparing a document motivating the resumption of dog-related activities so hopefully there will be some relaxation in our case.  In the meantime, I will be continuing with these free challenges certainly until we hear what the outcome is on the 1st of May.

dog touching target 2


My challenge over the past day or so has been to concentrate more on “targeting”.  Targeting and Luring are two similar and easy ways that we can “get” a dog to perform a behaviour.   Both a food lure and a touched target lead an animal into position. Both “get the behaviour.” Is there any real difference between the two methods? Why do some trainers rely on luring while others opt for targeting?  Both methods have similarities and some important differences.

Similarities are:

  1. Both methods require an eventual fade of the lure or the target so that they don’t become the final cue for the behaviour.
  2. Both carry a risk of the trainer becoming as dependent on a physical prompt as is the animal to complete the behaviour.  Beginner trainers are afraid that they may lose the progress they have made without maintaining the method that got them there.

Differences are:

  1. The lured animal is so focused on the treat that it is thinking of its appetite and not the task.  Less learning has been accomplished.
  2. With targeting although there is also a food reward the food is not in front of the dog so that it can think of the task and not its appetite.  More learning is accomplished.

So with targeting the animal is more engaged in the process, has accomplished more learning, and is more able to apply that learning to any number of behaviours.

The most basic targets are for the dog to touch his nose or paw to a hand, but there are also targets that may not seem so obvious.  We taught the dogs to target a “Perch” earlier in the challenges, as well as a platform.  Getting onto a mat is also targeting behaviour.  Your challenge over the next few days is to teach your dogs to touch your hand with a nose or paw and also to follow a target stick.

I’ll be back tomorrow so in the meantime, stay safe.

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